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William Grimes on 30-Minute Meals


SobaAddict70
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I am utterly mystified by the vitriol Grimes as brought down on himself. Grimes' goal is completely legitimate:

I have a new, nonnegotiable demand. I want solid, one-star dining in my home. That means a respectable two- or three-course meal, with dessert every night. And I don't want to spend a lot of time preparing it. That is another hobby that has gone out the window. No more all-day-project meals, the kind that pit me against Charlie Trotter or Thomas Keller.
It's a goal my wife and I try to reach three or four times a week, and the whole purpose of aiming for less once you step into the kitchen escapes me. "Honey, we're having bland frozen food tonight, with a tasteless cut of meat.

Oh, and canned peaches for dessert!" I don't need no stinkin' cookbook for that.

He takes tough, legitimate shots at cookbooks he doesn't like -- if it looks like Alpo, it looks like Alpo, for goodness' sake. Yuck. More revealing: "Betty takes a nonjudgmental attitude toward margarine versus butter. Frozen or canned ingredients she accepts as a fact of life and frozen fish, too. If you don't want to mince garlic, it is O.K. to buy it minced in a bottle." In three quick sentences, he sums up an attitude hostile to truly good -- as opposed to convenient -- cooking. Nice writing, I say.

A recipe for prosciutto and melon? Come on. Can't anybody cook any more? And I really don't need a cookbook "chock-full of sensible, middle-of-the-road recipes," especially if they grate America cheese into the corn chowder. Not that Better Homes and Gardens would have been my first choice - I wasn't too keen on them back in the 70s.

Then, just when you might be able to dismiss Grimes as a irredeemable snob, he embraces Reader's Digest! And Martha! And Jacques. I must have six Jacques cookbooks, and I'll wager none of them call for canned peaches, by the way.

Grimes' piece was a good read and witty and informative look at a cookbook genre that I have always been afraid to invest in, for fear of throwing my money away. He bought, he cooked and he told it like it was, and committed a valuable public service. I'm sure at least one of these books will find a cherished place in the busboy home.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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As intolerant as say, Amanda Hesser on Emeril Lagasse?

Something tells me that the New York Times and the Food TV Network were made for each other.   :raz:  :blink:

Lordy, I truly do not have the time to pick apart Ms Hesser's article (where is the conclusion...where does she wrap it all up? It...just...ends).

Not to defend Emeril in this discussion about Grimes but if you want to learn how to cook, watch Mario's show or Sara's. If you want to get excited about food, if you want to finish watching a show and think "Hey, I could do that" then watch Emeril.

Emeril is a good chef, we know that. Is he a good chef on his FoodTV show, the easy answer is "no". There have been previous articles (long before Amanda jumped on the bandwagon) that pointed out if you try to follow Emeril's recipes on the show, you won't end up with anything edible. But I don't think that's what his show is really about. It's about passion.

In the article, Emeril states:

What I'm trying to do with the people is connect and say, hey, this isn't rocket science.''
Julia did the same thing with her shows and often said the same thing. Hell, in a large part, that's what eGullet is about. It's about demystifying cooking so the home cook will tackle something which they would never have considered before.

You want to follow Emeril's recipes? Go to the website and download them like I do. Problem solved.

Amanda wrote:

...who really wants to eat pork burgers in gravy with French-fried sweet potatoes?

[Toliver raises his hand...then starts waving it around madly in case he hasn't been counted in the vote]

Is she serious? Let me be first in line. Let me wield the baton to lead that parade, Amanda.

Like Grimes, she's not Emeril's intended audience. And, like Grimes, she just doesn't "get" it.

edited to blather on a bit more

Edited by Toliver (log)

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Grimes' goal [one-star cooking in his house] is completely legitimate:  It's a goal my wife and I try to reach three or four times a week, and the whole purpose of aiming for less once you step into the kitchen escapes me.  "Honey, we're having bland frozen food tonight, with a tasteless cut of meat. 

Oh, and canned peaches for dessert!"

There are a lot of restaurants that would appear, if at all, in the "Under $25" category that are a whole lot better than bland frozen food and canned peaches, and I can fully understand someone not aspiring to cook 1-star food all the time, as defined by the way the Times awards stars. But sure, it's a perfectly reasonable goal for a home cook; why not?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Can anyone tell me just what is wrong with canned peaches? They have an honorable heritage. Generations of Americans made their peach cobbler with canned peaches.

And if you want ones that are tastier than the American, try the Mexican duraznos en almibar that come in glass jars as they have for centuries.

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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Can anyone tell me just what is wrong with canned peaches?  They have an honorable heritage.  Generations of Americans made their peach cobbler with canned peaches. 

And if you want ones that are tastier than the American, try the Mexican duraznos en almibar that come in glass jars as they have for centuries.

Rachel

They're not...evil. They just have a funny texture and an unnatural sweetness to them. And Grimes -- and by extension, myself and others -- used them as shorthand for the bad habit of substituting processing and convenience over taste and wholesomess. Canned peaches are the swift boat/National Guard debate of this thread.

Cobbler is good.

Edited by Busboy (log)

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Understood. And I think that is close to Tolliver's point. The shorthand doesn't necessarily help.

People have been putting up peaches for centuries. Sure the texture changes as it does in any preserved food. And sure they are sweet because the sugar is the preservative. What commercial canning did was make this treat available to everyone.

So to my mind it's not a case of wholesome versus erzatz but of establishing class status.

By the way, I'm not a big fan of canned peaches in the concrete (funny metaphor). But I do want to defend their place in honorable cooking,

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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I think he made a mistake in not even looking at 30 Minute Meals for Dummies. I used to write off the "for dummies" books (figuring I'm no dummy, so what could they have for me?) until I actually picked one up and found it to be both informative and entertaining.

From the excerpt available on the dummies.com website, the book looks not bad. She talks about how cooking at home is quicker and healthier than fast food, and about the less concrete idea of cooking helping to bring people together. My family always cooked together, and I thought that was how everybody did it, until I met my husband. My mother-in-law does not cook, she defrosts. Apparently even when they all sat down to dinner at the same time, they generally weren't eating the same dishes. The times we've visited the in-laws, mealtimes have felt quite odd to me, as if there were something missing.

It felt a little like the rare occasions when I've visited somebody's home for the first time to find that they have no books, no bookshelves - no reading matter at all, beyond magazines and a couple of paperback bestsellers. You don't read? How on earth do you live? You don't see a meal as anything more than fuel for your body? Why on earth do you bother to live? :blink:

"The dinner table is the center for the teaching and practicing not just of table manners but of conversation, consideration, tolerance, family feeling, and just about all the other accomplishments of polite society except the minuet." - Judith Martin (Miss Manners)

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I think he made a mistake in not even looking at 30 Minute Meals for Dummies. I used to write off the "for dummies" books (figuring I'm no dummy, so what could they have for me?) until I actually picked one up and found it to be both informative and entertaining.

I don't know about this book but Trotter's Gourmet Cooking for Dummies is an extraordinary volume.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Can anyone tell me just what is wrong with canned peaches?  They have an honorable heritage.  Generations of Americans made their peach cobbler with canned peaches. 

And if you want ones that are tastier than the American, try the Mexican duraznos en almibar that come in glass jars as they have for centuries.

Rachel

An honorable heritage? Is that simply because generations of Americans have used them? That sort of reasoning would convince us that McDonald's is the best restaurant in America. Yes, the whole world can be wrong and we can aspire to better taste. If that makes one a snob, then it's fine to be a snob and let others aspire to the mediocrity of that which they already know.

Let's examine canned peaches on their merits, and they have some merits, but let's not argue that that they're good enough just because some people like them. What's right with canned peaches is that they preserve the bounty of the summer harvest. (Actually most canned peaches in the supermarket are of abysmal quality, but as Rachel notes, there are some fine ones around, usually packed in glass and there's the option of spending some time putting your own peaches in mason jars for the winter.) What's wrong with canned peaches, assuming that's not a rhetorical question, is that they somehow homogenize the seasons and remove us from our environment when we're at the table. Some people find this sinful. I am less judgmental on that issue, but find that life can be more interesting when one can return to appreciating the seasons.

For all that, Grimes is a person with a vitriolic streak and while that's something one can honestly feel judgmental about in a moral fashion, it's also amusing to read at times. Nevertheless, as has been pointed out, a good part of the issue here is Pepin's connection with the canned goods industry. That might make Grimes think he's some sort of undercover investigative reporter, but he's not dug deeply enough to understand the whole story. I'd like to assume Grimes has read Pepin's memoirs. If so, he'd also know that Pepin not only flipped burgers for a stint at Howard Johnson's in order to understand that industry, but seriously worked at making mass marketed food much better than others thought it needed to be. Pepin was trained as an elitist French chef perhaps, but he's made a strong commitment to improving daily fare in America and making better food available to the masses.

It's not news that Grimes takes the cheap nasty shot and still enjoys doing it, but while I had the distinct impression he knew little about good food and had less interest in eating it when he began his restaurant reviewing career, I was impressed to see him express his current interest in eating well. I am always surprised when a member here expresses the need to defend his, or her, current eating habits to the extent that it displays an absolute disinterest in eating better or learning more about food. Spending less time in the kitchen and eating better are not mutually exclusive and whatever techniques apply to a veal chop, can also be applied to a boneless breast of chicken, or a pork sausage. Vitriolic snob that he might be, Grimes manages to extract good information as much as anything else in his article. I don't see enough of that in the posts here. Anyway, the reverse snobbism displayed in defense of bad food is peculiar in a place like eGullet.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I've missed you guys!

It is strange that a lot of us feel the need to defend our eating habits. I'm sure some caveman poo pooed Thor when he refused to eat the innards of the dead boar (were they around then?) because they were "icky" or "not cooked". Maybe a few members of an ancient Indian tribe laughed at one brave because he wouldn't eat pemmican after it was more than a year old :wink: Oh that's right. It was about survival back then!

The peaches are soooo amazing now. At least so many organic ones I've gotten at the farmers markets. There's nothing like a just picked peach, juice dripping down my chin, so sweet.

But in the middle of winter I will crave those overly sweet, tinny canned ones, swimming in syrup, topped with cottage cheese! It's that "takes me back to my childhood" taste that is also necessary.

jane

JANE

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I've missed you guys!

It is strange that a lot of us feel the need to defend our eating habits. I'm sure some caveman poo pooed Thor when he refused to eat the innards of the dead boar (were they around then?) because they were "icky" or "not cooked". Maybe a few members of an ancient Indian tribe laughed at one brave because he wouldn't eat pemmican after it was more than a year old :wink: Oh that's right. It was about survival back then!

The peaches are soooo amazing now. At least so many organic ones I've gotten at the farmers markets. There's nothing like a just picked peach, juice dripping down my chin, so sweet.

But in the middle of winter I will crave those overly sweet, tinny canned ones, swimming in syrup, topped with cottage cheese! It's that "takes me back to my childhood" taste that is also necessary.

jane

I hear you.

But canned ones are mushy and falling apart.

In winter times, if I haven't visited a local farm and picked my own to freeze, I'll purchase the frozen commercial version.

I'll have to see how my white peach raspberry preserves do, no?

Aside from this specific response, gosh I love St. Jacque, and his efforts to elevate the ho-humness of cuisine that is so vastly different to how he grew up and what inspired the man. I suppose on reflection, multiply it by a thousand....

edit: wine typo problems... :huh:

Edited by beans (log)
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But canned ones are mushy and falling apart.

I know. They're supposed to! I mean in England they're proud of "mushy peas" right?!

I think the canned ones are good to eat while watching something like "Father Knows Best". It's the whole experience thing. haha

Frozen is good. Heard a tip on Faith Middleton (NPR)yesterday. Lay out fresh berries individually on cookie sheet (or whatever fits into your freezer). Then when completely hard, pop into freezer bag.

Ciao!

JANE

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An honorable heritage? Is that simply because generations of Americans have used them?

No, it's because they have made life better. They were one of the first things that Appert canned for the luxury market when he started canning in the early nineteenth century. And before that, for the wealthy I am sure they were put up in brandy as they still are. I don't find it a bit surprising that Pepin would use them. I suspect it would go with his training rather than against it.

But I wouldn't want to write off the US dessert tradition which did use canned fruit much of the year. It was and I believe still is a fine tradition in many parts of the country.

What's right with canned peaches is that they preserve the bounty of the summer harvest. (Actually most canned peaches in the supermarket are of abysmal quality, but as Rachel notes, there are some fine ones around, usually packed in glass and there's the option of spending some time putting your own peaches in mason jars for the winter.) What's wrong with canned peaches, assuming that's not a rhetorical question, is that they somehow homogenize the seasons and remove us from our environment when we're at the table.

That's a perfectly reasonable position. But so too is the older position that you do want some of the bounty of fall on a beastly sleety March day when even the apples and pears are going soft.

Anyway, the reverse snobbism displayed in defense of bad food is peculiar in a place like eGullet.

But isn't that the point at issue? As several people have suggested, Pepin did make a good dessert with canned peaches. If we want to have one star meals on the table at night, isn't it a good thing to have a few canned peaches on our shelves?

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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I don't know about this book [30 Minute Meals for Dummies] but Trotter's Gourmet Cooking for Dummies is an extraordinary volume.

Nor is Bryan Miller and Marie Rama's Cocina para dummies so horrible. Dummies no estan estupido, just clueless.

I just finished working on a book of 501 30-Minute Meals. The recipes were almost all tempting. (Although yes, many of them used skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs, or more tender -- and thus more expensive -- cuts of meat, or fish fillets.) But the problem to me was that they did NOT result in a meal in 30 minutes. There was more prep time that was assumed to have been done, or there were accompaniments which required time not included. Did that make it a bad book? Only if readers really believe that they can get a full meal on the table in that time by following these writings.

I don't see the problem with taking the extra time to do everything that gets a real meal on the table, even if it still takes an hour (only 30 minutes longer than they claim; big deal. :raz: ) Hey, if you're that hungry, and are cooking from these books anyway, eat the stuff you trim off from the veggies or from the salad as you make it. (That's what HWOE always does.)

Oh -- are we fighting about canned peaches? I'm for 'em, as long as they're in juice or light syrup. (I've never been lucky enough to have the home-canned kind.) Sometimes you just NEED to make a cobbler in January. :laugh:

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I have to admit I can't stand watching Rachel Ray.  She is sooooo painfully cheerful I just want to punch her lights out. 
If anyone is going for the lowest common denominator, it's Grimes.  It's so easy to trash Rachel Ray, it's practically cliche. 

Count me in! I'm a bottom-feeder, a scum-sucker, and I cannot stand Ms Ray! Whenever I have the misfortune to see her on the Food Network I feel like I want to be ill. People who are as chirpy as that should be put in a cage and called Polly! :raz:

(Sorry Rachel, I'm sure you're really nice in person, but your TV personality is so f'ing wholesome......'all-American' as we say....bleuch!)

Forget the house, forget the children. I want custody of the red and access to the port once a month.

KEVIN CHILDS.

Doesn't play well with others.

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I have tried to watch Ms. Ray. I really have. But I can only take a couple of minutes and I just HAVE to turn the channel.

I haven't read any of her cookbooks either.

To be fair, the 30 minute concept is appealing in many respects, and I'm sure that many of her recipes are good.

St. Jacque's recipes will definitly get a gander from me.

However, I would just love to get Mr. Grimes' take on Sandra Lee :wacko:

I have watched this trainwreck of a show twice now and my son stands there and laughs as I yell at the television!

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So, just for the record, it appears that I need some of these books. Friday night it took me an hour to get omlettes and fried potatoes on the table. I mean, these were great omlettes, and that time included cutting fresh herbs out of the garden, frying bacon ahead of time so the potatoes could be fried in the grease and so on, but still -- an hour and all I could get finished was omlettes?

I think I'll check out Jacques next time I get down to the bookstore. I have all his other books anyway, may as well ship him a few more bucks. Plus, someone should actually eat the damn peaches that practically hijacked this thread.

Edited by Busboy (log)

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I think Ms. Ray has to be watched in the right spirit. With perhaps the addition of some spirits...maybe some "clueless college kid" needs to invent a 30 minute meals drinking game.

As for her recipies, I've made a bunch of 'em and they've just about all been good. A lot of 'em take more than 30 minutes (on the show the assumption is your produce and herbs are all already cleaned, your stock has been boiled if the recipie calls for it, etc.), but they're still good for a weeknight meal when you commute in NYC which in my case means I'm out the door around 7:15-7:30am and back home around 7pm.

Grimes' take was unsurprising, but I just shrugged and considered the source. If a NY Times food critic didn't rip cookbooks of this ilk it'd be a shock.

Edited by PDC (log)
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  • 3 weeks later...
Thirty Is The New 60  (William Grimes) (from the New York Times DIGEST update for Wednesday, 15 September 2004.  Scroll down for the appropriate link.)

OUCH!!!

On the other hand, part of me was quite appreciative of the fact that he stood up for home cooks everywhere and made his stand.

Your thoughts?

Soba

I just finished reading Jacques Pepin's Fast Food My Way. There's a recipe for (gasp) proscuitto and melon. Guess Grimes missed that in his rush to be snarky about Rachael Ray.

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30 minute meals aren't that difficult to pull off.

The problem is that so many people seem to find it daunting that there's a huge cottage industry in place for something as simple as boiling water.

At least, that's my take on it.

Soba

Alas, yes. I just received a catalogue in the mail from a company that ships frozen, "chef-prepared meals delivered to your door nationwide." They promise "from freezer to table in about 10 minutes." :unsure::huh::hmmm: Apparently one does have to know how to boil water, as the stuff is done sous-vide, and the company recommends placing the "specially designed packaging" in simmering water. I can't say any more, or I'll start getting really rude. :raz:

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